Thoughtful T-shirt company 4Societee helps support local businesses and nonprofits.
By Tanya A. Yacina
The idea had been brewing for a while. Five years ago, Melissa Martinez-Booth established the concept of 4Societee as a solution to a problem. Her children, Travis and Tess, grew up surfing competitively and she was surprised to learn surfing was the only Laguna Beach High School sport not represented by a scholarship. She and her husband—former pro-surfer and Laguna Beach native Jeff Booth—set out to fix that.
“We [created] a map tee of our own beach town to use as a fundraiser. This T-shirt launched the Laguna Beach Surf Team Scholarship, now in its fifth year, and [has raised] over $50,000 … [to help] send graduating surfers to college,” Martinez-Booth explains. “We often thought of extending this give-back concept to other causes and, when COVID hit, we had the forced pause that we needed to get things started, and created 4Societee.”
Martinez-Booth explains that 4Societee partners with nonprofits and small businesses to design and produce creative clothing that represents them, creates additional revenue streams and raises awareness. The process is collaborative; they work with local artists in addition to the organizations themselves to bring their messages to life.
“It’s definitely a family affair, with Jeff and our kids helping out with anything from home deliveries to last-minute modeling sessions,” she says. “Our family has a history [of] supporting our local food shelter, Laguna Food Pantry, and as we’ve personally seen the difference they make in our community, they were chosen as one of our initial causes and will always remain a major part of our efforts.”
Despite the challenging times that the community has faced over the last year, Martinez-Booth says she has seen locals rally and seek out small business logos on a much larger scale than usual: These logos are now the “brands” that people wear to showcase their support.
“Melissa had the vision and I was dragged into it—completely willing, of course,” her husband explains of his supporting role. “It was about helping those in need. While our efforts may not get businesses and charities over the finish line, it’s the effort and intent that counts, knowing that there are people out there who have your back and [are] supporting in any way they can.”
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, 4Societee repurposed what was essentially its original design and expanded the map concept to help select shops across the country, telling their story on 4Societee.com. By setting it up this way, 4Societee was able to generate revenue for each individual shop through online sales. Once restrictions relaxed and stores started opening back up, there was a demand for the map tees to be sold in-store. What began as an online campaign to give back turned into a private label collaboration with each shop.
“Up to now, the process has been pretty organic—we are moving where we feel needed. And hopefully, in time, this side passion project will grow into a full-time endeavor,” Martinez-Booth says. “We’d love to work with any local business or charity that thinks they could use our help.”
A Helping Hand
Using T-shirts, hats, discount codes and more, 4Societee is able to offer assistance to a number of organizations in Laguna Beach and beyond.
Last summer, 4Societee teamed up with Locals for Laguna Beach, an organization dedicated to supporting small businesses and other people, groups or projects in town. As part of the partnership, founder Melissa Martinez-Booth produced merchandise for the group, with the proceeds benefiting local businesses. Beyond creating hats and T-shirts themed around Locals for Laguna Beach’s wave-centric logo, 4Societee came up with the idea to launch the Locals Card, which offers discounts and freebies as a way to encourage residents to dine and shop here in town. Included with the sale of select products, the membership-type program started last July and is valid for an entire year from your purchase date.
For a Cause
The idea behind 4Societee stemmed from establishing a scholarship for the Laguna Beach High School surf team, but that isn’t the only group that has received support from the company. Some of the additional Orange County causes that have benefited from the business include Laguna Food Pantry and Newport/Mesa ProLiteracy. But 4Societee has also provided aid to organizations outside of our local community. Some of these include Los Angeles-based groups, such as the Downtown Women’s Center and Waves for Water’s COVID-19 Response: Help the Helpers campaign, plus the City Harvest food bank in New York City and, internationally, the Italian Red Cross.
In addition to creating the Locals Card, 4Societee assisted a couple of local venues to keep business booming during a tough time. The first business to sign on for the card program was Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill, at which time Martinez-Booth helped them bring back a previous tradition: local’s night. Along with specials for locals, they also added a 50% discount on cocktails every Wednesday evening, when you can often find her and her husband, Jeff Booth, supporting the restaurant. The brand also collaborated with The Sandpiper Lounge, which has been temporarily closed for over a year due to the pandemic. In November, Mozambique hosted a concert fundraiser for the bar during which 4Societee sold its Keep it Dirty shirts; $7,500 was raised for the famous watering hole, affectionately nicknamed the Dirty Bird, and the shirts will continue to be sold at local businesses until the bar can reopen.